PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY, JULY 2, 2014) — Under The Empty Suit (TES), the Global Montello energy company employee who play acts as the mayor of Pittsfield and pulls down nearly $88,000 a year+bennies from bedraggled city taxpayers, the hits just keep coming.

A few years ago, non-supervision and non-accountability led to a corrupt worker draining the Pittsfield Water Department nearly dry. The accused employee “resigned” and left town to his next gig. He wasn’t prosecuted, and the city was never made whole for the missing money.

Yesterday, THE PLANET shared exclusive news about another questionable hire by The Empty Suit. The mayor gave his OK for a long-time water department employee with no managerial experience and nothing more than a high school education to take over as the head of the Highway Department.

Sources describe Kevin Swail as a “crony” of city public works commission Bruce Collingwood. Swain, sources say, is also friends with David Santolin, former head of the Pittsfield water department now serving in the same capacity in Lanesboro. Santolin’s wife, Susan, has a job in as executive secretary in the mayor’s office.

In yet another exclusive, THE PLANET shares the fallout from the recent deluge of rain in this soggiest of city departments. Remember the torrential rains on June 25? Sources say that because of the incompetence at the water department, a sizeable raw sewage spill has infected the Housatonic River and the nearby adjacent farmland. What makes a bad story even worse is that, according to sources, the city has deliberately withheld the worst of the information from the state Environmental Protection Agency.

Our source pick up the story from there:

“Well, even though everyone in the water department knew the downpour [on the 27th] was coming, a decision was made by management to shut down some of the treatment plant equipment.” Consequently, sources tell THE PLANET “a large amount of raw sewage was discharged directly into the Housatonic River. The City is trying to cover this up because of the environmental impact.”

Knowledgeable sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, believe Pittsfield will be fined big bucks for the error in judgment.

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News of the environmental disaster will come as a surprise to our Right Honorable Good Friends on the city council, who are, after all, only TES’ co-governors in the running of the city. If our sources are correct and the state EPA hits the city with a large fine, that bill can be attributed directly to the mayor’s ineptness.

Sources say the EPA has gotten wind of this ill wind. As the theme from Dragnet put it so aptly, “Dum dee dum-dum.”

Sources also tell THE PLANET that Carl Shaw was running the plant at the time of the incident.

Piecing together information from our investigation, here’s what THE PLANET thinks happened: At the time of the downpour, two catch basins were down due to repairs. A third basin wasn’t working properly, but it could have held water.  Shaw allegedly ordered the third basin off-line, despite knowing the torrential rain was on its way.  When the next shift took over, sources say, Shaw didn’t inform the workers that he took the third basin off line.  When the rains hit and started to cause back-up problems, the next shift sent water towards that third basin, not knowing it was off-line.

Raw sewage and a river: Not a good combination.

Sources say this action blew off a man-hole cover located by the nearby farm on Holmes Road, and the adjacent farm land was contaminated with raw sewage.  The only reason anything was reported to the EPA was that the sewage that made its way into the river went through a device that captured what happened.

Sources say the water department was told to report what happened to the EPA but only because of the monitoring. They were told not to tell the EPA about the farm land being contaminated. Who gave that order? Who made that decision? Shaw? Collingwood? Bianchi? Aunt Edna’s pet poodle?

THE PLANET has a request for comment into the mayor and commission Collingwood. Here are the questions we have asked them:

* Can you confirm and comment on the incident.
* Did you inform the EPA of the discharge into the river?
* Did you tell the EPA about the farm land?
* What will be done to rectify the situation?
* Will there be accountability?

THE PLANET is awaiting what shall most likely be the usual non-reponse. Meanwhile, the citizens of Pittsfield continue to pay the price for a part-time mayor who with each new day, with each new action, with each new inaction, drives the city closer to its fate with the wrecking ball.

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Coming Soon, a




THE PLANET reviews The Berkshire Theatre Group‘s full-tilt production of Charles Ludlam‘s The Mystery of Irma Vep, starring Bill Bowers and Tom Hewitt.

New York Times’ Summer Stages Pick
by Charles Ludlam
directed by Aaron Mark
featuring Bill Bowers and Tom Hewitt

at The Fitzpatrick Main Stage, Stockbridge
Previews June 24-June 27
Press Opening/Opening Night: June 28
Talkback: June 30
Closing: July 19
Tickets: Preview: $42
A: $62 B: $52 C: $42

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(STOCKBRIDGE, WEDNESDAY, JUNE 2, 2014) — What happens when Farce meets Theater of the Absurd meets Theater of the Ridiculous? And what occurs when you take this amalgam, throw in cross dressing, gender bending, a spooky dark mansion, a trio of monsters that would make the old Universal Studios proud, and give the nearly panicky script to a director and actors who “get” (no, “Get”) the heart of the play?

ANSWER: THE BTG’s current production of Charles Ludlam’s The Mystery of Irma Vep — A Penny Dreadful, as pleasant a look at the oft-unpleasant of personal Identity as you will want to meet … or howl for.

The fun begins with the odd show title. “Irma Vep” is an anagram for “vampire,” while “a penny dreadful” refers to a kind of sensationalistic periodical fiction sold for a penny on cheap paper, popular in 19th century England.

We are already breathless. There’s a vampire, to be sure, plus a mummy (and the inevitable “mummy/mommy” puns) and a werewolf. There’s a lot of deliberately (and creatively) cheap camp that takes “penny dreadful” sensationalism, mainlines it with pure adrenaline, and feeds it coffee for the show’s 90 or so minutes.

BOWERS & HEWITT: All “Vep,” all the time. (Photos, Berkshire Theatre Group)

Director Mark Lane takes Ludlam’s precisely wild script and put his all, and the production’s all, into what we can best term “pace.” To act out this two-man exhale, Lane gives reign to two of the best, Tom Hewitt (playing Lady Enid, Nicodemus, and Alcazar) and actor/mime Bill Bowers (Lord Edgar, Jane, and An Intruder). Hewitt and Bowers pull off Ludlam-cum-Lane’s conception brilliantly. The pair play adeptly with Ludlam’s feverish dialogue, both actors suitably over-the-top — where they find the rim of the glass always rising just beyond their grasp (otherwise, what is a “reach” for?!)

Costumes (Wade Laboissonniere), lighting (Alan Edwards), and sound (Brendan Doyle) enhance the frenetic and fraught pacing, literally pulled off (and on) by Hewitt and Bowers with the flash-drive costume changes, near-perfect handling of the machine-gun dialogue, and tizzied body language (particularly Bowers).

Set designer Randall Parsons takes a literal approach, rendering the interior of Mandacrest with a cartoonish believability. Perfect touch, as is his stylized renderings of “various places in Egypt.”

The only down side to this romp is that it ended.


“Yet still in me with those soft luxuries / Mixed something of a stern mood, an underthirst / Of vigour seldom utterly allayed: / And from that source how different a sadness / Would issue, let one incident be made known.”William Wordsworth, opening to “Crossing the Alps,” (1850).








  1. Teecha teecha
    July 1, 2014 at 10:21 pm #

    The last question refers to the river cleanup. The picture of him farting into the phone is worth a look see. Such transparency with the media. The whole interview seems staged.

    • dusty
      July 2, 2014 at 1:14 am #

      In this article the mayor says that the new school will be the cornerstone of economic development for the city. That is some top level spin right there.

      Are we doing away with the arts?

      • Shakes His Head
        July 2, 2014 at 6:05 am #

        I guess Pittsfield doesn’t need to spend any more money on Streetscapes or the 9 million dollar parking deck rehab, or developing the former GE site.

      • Scott
        July 2, 2014 at 8:42 am #

        Yeah but you can’t learn technological crap in the new scho thy did away with those programs but who’s really using a computer or engineering stuff these days anyways.

      • joetaxpayer
        July 2, 2014 at 6:24 pm #

        Dusty, I guess Holmes Rd. is not the only place raw sewage is being released to the public.

        • danvalenti
          July 2, 2014 at 6:25 pm #

          Right, JOE T. Plenty of it is coming from the corner office at 70 Allen St. these days.

  2. Spider
    July 2, 2014 at 5:31 am #

    This raw sewage incident calls for action (for once) by our City Council.

    You bet we will be fined by the EPA. More money from already beleaguered taxpayers and NO HEADS WILL ROLL!

    How much more has to happen (I..e. Water Dept. scandal, stealing from within city depts., money missing from PHS) before our City Council has the balls to do something…..ANYTHING?

  3. Silence Dogood
    July 2, 2014 at 5:38 am #

    I hear Bianchi is interviewing Ed Norton from the “Honey Mooners”

  4. rainy day
    July 2, 2014 at 5:47 am #

    The EPA could impose fines of $1 – 2 million dollars for this incompetency. However, lying to them, withholding information and covering up may skyrocket the fines to $100 to 200 million plus cleanup costs.

    There will be no consent decree ripoff deal with the EPA.

    The people’s taxes can be raised by 50 to 75 percent.
    This administration is by far the worst ever.
    The city council is a joke.
    Best thing to do is sell your house, (if you can find a sucker to buy it) and get the hell out of Pittsfield.

  5. Mad Trapper
    July 2, 2014 at 6:11 am #

    Dan, not the first time that manhole has popped it’s lid. It happens often.

    I remember, in the past, seeing an arroyo of soiled TP and tampoons leading right down to the river.

    When the river was high, then receded the trees looked like some kind of “demented Christmas decoration” or a Halloween prank; Thank You $#!tsfield Water dept.and TES for your foul spoor.

  6. Mike Ward
    July 2, 2014 at 9:45 am #

    I’ve seen the leftover crust from spills there too, Mad Trapper.

    Thanks Dan — this is one of those stories that wouldn’t normally see the light of day.

    • danvalenti
      July 2, 2014 at 6:32 pm #

      Appreciate the nod, MIKE.

  7. levitan
    July 2, 2014 at 10:02 am #

    Another strike of black gold. This is rich.

  8. amandaWell
    July 2, 2014 at 10:19 am #

    Hey, this is the stuff the Clampetts were made famous!

  9. Robin
    July 2, 2014 at 11:54 am #

    Agree with earlier post, council must act. I drove down to the Holmes Rd area, the farm and water plant. An eco disaster, a major story.Must be consequences & accountability for once.

  10. dusty
    July 2, 2014 at 12:02 pm #

    I will bet 100 lira that Julie is not answering any questions regarding any sewage spills in Pittsfield or New Delhi.

    • levitan
      July 2, 2014 at 1:21 pm #

      “What spill? How should I know which spill you’re talking about?”

    • Scott
      July 3, 2014 at 3:13 am #

      Dusty, “obviously”!

  11. BOC
    July 2, 2014 at 12:39 pm #

    Don’t worry, once the city managers get their retroactive pay raises nothing like this will even happen again!

    • Mad Trapper
      July 2, 2014 at 2:32 pm #

      They need the extra salary to attract “qualified” applicants for these important positions, like the new Highway Super. It’s not easy finding someone who finished High school in Pittsfield

      • dusty
        July 2, 2014 at 3:32 pm #

        Well the good news is that once the new economic engine high school is built everyone will be graduating and we will be overrun with honor students on their way to Ivy league schools. The whole concept makes my heart sing.

        • danvalenti
          July 2, 2014 at 6:28 pm #

          Just what we need, another “economic engine.” EV Worldwide, Workshop Dead!, downtown’s streetscape, the Howard Building, the Colonial Theater, the airport runway, PEDA = economic engines, all. How did that work out for Pittsfield? Bianchi’s label of economic engine is the smoking gun on this unwise school construction. When The Suits label something an “Economic engine,” you can be sure it’s only being built for favors to hidden, special interests. Bricks-n-Mortar will not suddenly turn our young people into Rhodes Scholars. It will line the pockets of the right people, though.

    • danvalenti
      July 2, 2014 at 6:31 pm #

      True, true, true. For performance and leadership such as the water department fiasco, all the managers deserve raises.

  12. NATO
    July 2, 2014 at 2:05 pm #

    These leaders are the best money can buy, next!

  13. Model Citizen
    July 2, 2014 at 2:15 pm #

    DV why no reporting of the police informant/heroin dealer story? D.A. Clueless and the regional police departments also deserve more scutiny from the press and media especially with all of the crime happening in our area.
    Time and time again we see troubling verdicts in our courts and how law enforcement handles “incidents” with connected people. This behavior reduces the faith in local government.

    • danvalenti
      July 2, 2014 at 6:30 pm #

      Not familiar with this story.If it needs more “press and media scrutiny,” perhaps you might want to contact the other local media, who these days are doing precious little except publish rah-rah pieces for the Chamber.

      • b_ball8
        July 3, 2014 at 8:35 am #

        Dan – not defending eagle, but there was a front page piece on the story MC refers to in Sunday’s edition. It is a major problem. At least brought the issue / case to forefront again, if not for a day or week.

        • Model Citizen
          July 3, 2014 at 3:10 pm #

          Yes there were two different stories about this troubled man’s demise. His family and friends say he was a confidential reliable informant for the Berkshire County drug task force and was aloud to use and deal heroin himself in exchange for fingering other individuals.
          Several NY newspapers state that he was kidnapped here in Massachussetts and later executed in NYC. The Berkshire Eagle omitted the kidnapping part in their coverage of the story. Of course local law enforcement claim no responsibility for his death. Surely there has to be some accountability.

  14. Spider
    July 2, 2014 at 2:42 pm #

    From what I am hearing, the nearby residents are concerned about a possible health risk with the raw sewage.

    Question: Is our local Health Dept. involved or are they another “do nothing” group like our mayor and city council?

    • danvalenti
      July 2, 2014 at 6:29 pm #

      Nearby residents should be concerned. Don’t know to what extent the local health department is involved. So far, city hall hasn’t said peep about this.

  15. Joe Blow
    July 2, 2014 at 6:57 pm #

    Dan, I just wanted to thank you for investigating and bringing these stories to the public. The work you do on this blog and your show are a true public service!

  16. Joe Blow
    July 2, 2014 at 7:11 pm #

    How much money was missing from the water department and what is the statute of limitations on fraud? I wonder if you could get a comment from D.A. Capeless on why these crimes went unprosecuted. The records and evidence should still exist unless they pulled a Lois Lerner and recycled the hard drives.

  17. Jonathan Melle
    July 2, 2014 at 7:45 pm #

    * Massachusetts District Attorneys will receive a 15% pay raise or nearly $23k more per year for a total of $171,561 per year.
    * Massachusetts 14 Sheriffs will get a 23 percent pay increase for a total of $151,709 per year.
    * Massachusetts Trial Court Judges will receive a 23% pay raise or $30k more per year for a total of $160,000 per year.
    Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski are paying for Massachusetts D.A.’s, Sheriffs, and Judges pay raises in Fiscal Year 2015.

    • danvalenti
      July 2, 2014 at 8:16 pm #

      Thanks, JON. Yes, the Boston Globe reported this yesterday. Capeless just got a $23,000 a year raise! Bowler gets boosted 23% to $151,709. Meanwhile, The Kapanskis are trying to figure out how on earth they are going to pay for the higher taxes Pittsfield’s loser of a mayor has just imposed on them, with the complicity of the lapdog council.

      • Sillence Dogood
        July 3, 2014 at 7:26 am #

        is it true that massachusetts judges, who are employed by the state, do not contribute to the massachusetts retirement system none the less draw a state pension upon retirement?

    July 2, 2014 at 9:55 pm #


    • Richard
      July 3, 2014 at 3:02 am #

      Lay off the booze Allen

    • Teecha teecha
      July 3, 2014 at 7:01 am #

      Romney lost to Clinton?

    • Harrison
      July 3, 2014 at 7:27 am #

      Dan, you should redact the above post

  19. Mr. X
    July 3, 2014 at 3:00 am #

    PB…thanks for finally speaking out…I personally prefer the grape flavored kool-aid

  20. Mr. X
    July 3, 2014 at 3:00 am #

    PB…thanks for finally speaking out…I personally prefer the grape flavored kool-aid

  21. amandaWell
    July 3, 2014 at 3:20 am #

    We’re getting these state workers for cheap, some of the pensions are 100g a year minimum.

  22. Nota
    July 3, 2014 at 5:55 am #

    The Tri County Health Monitor, Jim Willuts, wants everyone going to restaurants to eat less glutonous. I was looking at a couple of these new hires, one in particular in the school system who is under a big contract, which our taxpayers float,maybe these new hires with the big contracts should adhere to Willuts advice and be required to get into shape.

  23. Sillence Dogood
    July 3, 2014 at 7:28 am #

    Jim Willuts????????????????